What’s up with Susan Boyle?

I often have an adverse reaction to hype.  So, the fact that I do not hate Susan Boyle, and the incredible amount of hype she has generated in the past couple of weeks, is surprising to me, but the fact is, she has a pretty good voice.  The main problem that I have is the over-hyped situation associated with her.

I thought about the situation, and have come up with a few theories as to why this situation has blown up as much as it has.  Part of this has to do with the American Idol effect (Yes, I know she was on Britain’s Got Talent).  These types of programs offer several different stereotypical contestants.  Two of the main types are the ‘serious good contestant’ and the ‘complete bit contestant.’

The serious contestant is the one that the show thinks has a real possibility of competing.  They are usually very good singers, and average looking to decent looking or very good looking and decent singers.  Sometimes they offer the ‘total package’- the guy or girl who is both very good looking and a very good performer.  They go far in the competition.

The bit contestant is the one whose sole reason for being on the program is that he or she did not get enough attention as a child (no father figure), and has decided to make up for it in one impulsive spectacle that at best makes us laugh, but mostly makes us wonder why they, and the producers of the show are wasting our time.

Then, there is Susan Boyle.  I do not mean to be cruel, but it is not secret that she is not beautiful, quite the opposite.  As I said before, she can sing.  But is her voice that great?  Aren’t there lots and lots of singers out there who can sing that song just as well as she can?  The answer is ‘yes’.  So, what happened that catapulted her to fame so quickly?  I believe a lot of it had to do with expectations.  Those types of programs are built on expectations.

If  Adam Lambert, who has raised expectations very high on American Idol, came out this week and simply did a decent job, but not the great job (as he usually does), the judges would probably savage him because he would not be meeting their expectations for him.  While a guy like Scott MacIntyre, who recently left the show, received praise for doing a decent, but not great job after having a couple of off weeks.  He had lowered their expectations, and when he did better, he received praise.

This effect is multiplied in the case of Susan Boyle.  She came out, and the audience heard the collective giggles.  She looked silly, and she acted a little silly as well.  The expectation was that she would be one of the bits that provide a moment of comic relief on the show, and when she came out an sang a very nice version of the song “I Dreamed a Dream,” she so exceeded everyone’s expectations, that it was made to be more than it was.

The truth is that if a beautiful woman who looked like she belonged on the stage, had come out on the stage and performed as well as Susan, it would not have had nearly the impact that this performance did.  It all had to do with expectations. 

There is another factor that also helps.  There are lots of women out there who want to do what she has done.  They are sitting at home wishing that there was more to their lives.  For these women, Susan Boyle makes their dreams seem more achievable.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with that.

I hope she does well, and I hope that she cashes in quickly.  Eventually, I see her working in the theatre where there are lots of nice seats far enough away that all you really have to worry about is her voice.

Review Of American Idol Season So Far

Find my latest American Idol article here.

The separation of the Idol contestants is not as obvious as in years past but it is quickly becoming apparent who the ‘real deals’ in the competition are.  As I break down this week’s performances, I will tell you what I think their chances are and how far I think they can conceivably get in the competition.  The writing is on the wall, all we have to do now is watch and wait, and hope our favorites do not have a train-wreck before the end.


A side note before I go on.  I have been amazed every year at females in the competition who always seem to choose songs out of their range, and I don’t mean their high range.

When you go on Idol, or even if you are just singing in church on Sunday, it is important to choose a song that you can sing.  Singing a song well, means singing the entire song well, not just blasting out a beautiful, last note after being sharp for the first three verses.  Learn your range and do not stray from it.  Hedge your bets by giving yourself a safety note.  What happens with women is that when they are relaxed in practice without an audience, their vocal cords are also relaxed, allowing them greater access to lower notes. However, when the competition rolls around, they inevitably get nervous, and together with the day’s rehearsal, their vocal cords tighten.  This reduces their access to their lower range and can (and does almost every week on Idol) leave them sharp at the beginning of their songs.

There are several ways to deal with this.  1) Relax.  This is easier said than done.  2) Choose song that is not as low.  3) Work with that band of professional musicians that the show has provided you with to arrange the song in you range.  They are good, and they know how to do it.


Paula was once again incommunicable at times during the show.  For the most part, I’ve decided to ignore her.  I don’t care about the dresses that they are wearing tonight (for the most part), and anything interesting she has to say has already been said by Randy.  All I have to do is wade through the “Dawgs” to get to his comments.  Listening to her attempt to use the English language is like watching a double amputee try to play ping pong.  I just don’t have the time or the energy to attempt to decipher her opinions.


A final note, I’ve noticed several things that make up a successful American Idol contestant.  One is style.  If you are the country singer, do you fit the mold of a country singer?  The second is personality.  How well do you relate to the fans before, during and after you sing?  The third is performance.  Can you use the stage well, and perform like a professional?  And finally there is singing ability.  Do you have a good voice and do you know how to use it?  I tend to be more concerned with singing ability than the others, but that is myopic when talking about Idol.  It is the other qualities that help you to stay in the competition when you have a bad night.


Amanda Overmyer  “Back in the USSR”-  I think I get it.  I just don’t like it.  I realize she has fans, but these people must be visually oriented.  She is all style and performance.  She fits the mold and attitude of the rocker girl well, but I just can not get past that voice.  I find myself continually wishing she would cough up that wad of phlegm before she sings.  Her gravelly voice always sounds as if she has marbles in her mouth, and there is no diction.  This week, I could hardly hear her voice for the music, and I found that I liked this better.  If you like her, fine.  I just cannot see her cracking the top five or six.  Simon finally said it.  She does the same thing week after week.

Kristy Lee Cook– “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”- I could here this song done as a country song, but I’d rather not hear her do it.  This song was too low for her, and I was surprised that the judges did not criticize her for it.  All of the verses were sharp because she just could not get down to the notes.  It was a mess.  Overall, she has no style, little personality, an inability to perform and she is the worst singer left in the competition.  Somehow she has avoided the Idol Grim Reaper for the last three straight weeks (the go-go boots helped- she should bring them back), but I have a feeling she could be in real trouble this week.  In any case, her departure may have been delayed, but it is inevitable that it will happen soon.

David Archuleta– “The Long and Winding Road”- This was a good song choice for him.  I thought it might be too low, but his voice sounded nice on the lower notes also.  It is hard to keep that soft tone to your voice as you go down in your registry, but he did it well.

David’s Idol nickname should be “the Total Package.”  It is hard to pin a style on him, but he definitely has one.  I would call it “sensitive and emotive.”  He usually looks like he is really caught up in the meaning of the songs he sings (the inflection helps this also).  He may have the best personality in the history of the show if not the history of the medium of television.  His stage performance is not always the most compelling, but he uses his facial expressions to compensate.  His vocal is great and he seems to know just what to do to it to get the perfect tone and inflection in his notes.  He is easily in the top two, and good luck to anyone who wishes to crack his fan-base.

Michael Johns– “A Day in the Life”- Sometimes I wonder if I was listening to the same performance as the judges.  This was one of those times.  First, it was nice to hear a young person who seems to respect and understand the greatness of the Beatles.  The first high note was a little rough, but I the “Ahs” were very nice.  I like it, and thought it might be his best since making the top 24.  The judges, especially Simon, savaged it. 

Michael’s style is OK as a rocker, but not the best in the competition.  His personality, stage presence and vocals are also OK.  As a result I do not see him making it farther than the top six.  If he survives the criticism he received last night, he must pick it up, or go home soon.

Brooke White– “Here Comes the Sun”- I thought the song had a nice country tone to it, but she lost it a little as she tried to negotiate the microphone stand.  The main problem I had with it was that it was boring and forgettable.  The judges did not like it either.

Brooke is like David Archuleta light.  She has a more defined style than he does with her folksy Carly Simon vibe, but though she has a good personality and voice, she is not on the same level as David.  She has admitted herself that she does not have a good stage presence.  Brooke will not have trouble making the top five, and could be in the top three at the end of the competition.

David Cook– “Day Tripper”- Cook showed a nice low range on this song, and overall it was good.  However, if you are going to have the guitar on stage, then you need to play it.  Also, the Frampton bit was bad and unnecessary.  This is the kind of preponderance of elements that you do not want.  It totally took away from the song, and it is what people will remember about the performance.  The judges were split.

I hope last night’s performance does not hurt David, because he deserves to be around for a while.   He is big on style (the best rocker in the competition), and he is the best performer left in the competition.  He also uses his voice well, but he does not have the best personality there.  I think he should make the top five, and perhaps the top three.

Carly Smithson– “Blackbird”- I‘m not trying to be too much like Paula, but her dress/shirt looked awful.  However, she sang the song well, and showed a nice low range that she has not used before.  She sounded a little like Cher.  The only real problem was when she ran out of steam at the key change.  It was good but not her best.  I found Simon’s criticism on this one, “not a good choice” and “indulgent,” to be a little idiotic.

Carly is the most consistent singer in the competition.  She always sounds good.  She has a definite style and uses that stage better than most of the ladies.  Her personality is alright, but I am not sure how well the tattoos play in middle-America.  She could tone that down a little and at least wait until the season is over to stop ruining her body.  Overall, I think she is in the top two.

Jason Castro– “Michelle”- I loved his quote, “I just found out ‘my belle’ was French.  It thought it was English, ‘my bell.’”  His goofiness is an endearing quality.  He finally held some notes out in the chorus, and they sounded good.  It was good but sort of the same as always.  The judges liked it also, though Simon was critical of the vocal.

Jason definitely has a style and personality which is a good combination to develop a fan base with.  He looks awkward on stage from time to time, and I do not think he has the best vocals in the competition.  He should make the top five or six, but will have trouble going farther.

Syesha Mercado– “Yesterday”- Again, not to sound too much like Paula, but she looked beautiful last evening.  It was a brave choice, but she sang it well.  It began nice and soft, but when she hit the high notes they were exceptional and strong.  Where have these notes been?  The judges loved it and Simon was right to say it was her best performance so far.

Seysha is the wild card in the competition.  She is the most talented and inconsistent performer there.  She looked beautiful last night, but not always.  She showed the best voice in the competition last night, but not always.  She has performed on stage well before, but not always, and her personality could use improvement (she needs more of it).  I think she will make the top six for sure, but her limit will have more to do with how consistent she is from this point on than how much talent she has.  A voice like hers could win the competition, but I don’t know if she has that in her.

Chikezie– “I’ve just seen a face”- I liked the bluegrass/country/gospel version of this song.  I even liked the use of the harp (harmonica).   The judges were all over the place on this one, and Simon hated the harmonica.

I think Chikezie has come on lately to show that he is one of the more versatile performers with one of the more versatile voices in the competition.  He doesn’t really have a style, but he proves he can sing a lot of different things regularly.  His voice is always good, and his performance is exciting.  However, his personality was damaged at the beginning of the season with comments to Simon that I don’t know if he can recover from.  Chikezie may be one of the top performers in the competition, but I do not see him making the top six.

Ramiele Maluby– “I Should Have Known Better”- She sang this song well, but I just did not care.  It was forgettable.  The judges were split with Simon not liking it.

I don’t see Ramiele making it much further in the competition.  She has no style, and though she sings the notes well with a strong voice, she is able to such the life and soul out of anything she sings.  She works the stage sometimes, but her greatest asset is her offstage personality.  She has no personality when singing, but she comes off as cute the rest of the time, and this has served her well.  I cannot see her making the top five.